Literary Celebrity in Canada
Published: October 2007© 2007
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 200 Pages
Dimensions: 5.69 x 8.80
200 Pages, 5.69 x 8.80 x 0.80 in
In recent years, Canadian authors have enjoyed tremendous international success, writing novels that become Oscar-nominated films or achieve coveted success as selections for the Oprah Winfrey bookclub. Literary Celebrity in Canada is the first extended study of the dynamics of celebrity in the field of Canadian literature. Building on the argument that celebrity is a phenomenon firmly embraced by mainstream culture, Lorraine York examines it in relation to various tensions and conflicts within the literary community and beyond.
Using as examples three contemporary literary celebrities, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Carol Shields, and four earlier popular writers, Pauline Johnson, Stephen Leacock, Mazo de la Roche, and L.M. Montgomery, York demonstrates that individual authors respond differently to fame in ways that can be contradictory and complex. She casts doubt on the notion of a specifically Canadian response to fame. Depending on the public interpretation of a particular writer's life and work, different tensions arise in negotiating literary celebrity. Privacy versus publicity; swift success versus laborious apprenticeship; national versus international association, or ownership of the celebrity - no single version of celebrity applies to all.
Citizenship, however, is a remarkably consistent site of tension for stars, literary or otherwise. Like citizenship, celebrity marks an uneasy space wherein the single, special individual and the group demographic both meet and separate. Literary Celebrity in Canada explores that space, drawing on current theories of celebrity and questioning their tendency to view fame as an empty phenomenon. This study is an innovative attempt to understand the psychology of literary stardom and will influence future research on contemporary literature and popular culture.
‘To date, only a tiny number of article-length studies have considered Canadian literary celebrity, and then only in relation to individual authors or as part of a broader reception study. In this light, Literary Celebrity in Canada has no precedents and really breaks new ground. Lorraine York has written a very significant and genuinely novel study which makes a considerable contribution both to Canadian literary studies and to the study of celebrity. It is enjoyable to read and should appeal to anyone with an interest in Canadian writers.’Faye Hammill, Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University
‘This text both chronicles and theorizes literary celebrity in Canada. Lorraine York begins with an introduction to the burgeoning field of celebrity cultural studies, and goes on to historicize the topic in a chapter on Canadian literary celebrities of the early twentieth century. Particularly interesting are her case studies of Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Carol Shields, three major figures in contemporary Canadian literature. This is a well-written and well-argued study that stakes out important new critical territory.’Loren Glass, Department of English, University of Iowa
- Raymond Klibansky Prize awarded by Aid to Scholarly Publications Programme